Friday, August 31, 2012

Inochi no Michi, August 2012

Dearest Missionaries in Nagoya,

On the last page of the July 2012 Liahona is an article entitled “Unspotted from the World” by Julie Thompson.   She wrote of a personal experience in the Bountiful Utah Temple.   I encourage you to read her article with the thought that our homes where we live (your apartment) are next to the temple as a sacred place and where we can enjoy the Spirit of Lord.  Often we think of cleaning our apartments as menial jobs that we must do as a matter of duty. 
One day in the temple before starting to clean the temple, she tells about her meeting in a small chapel for a devotional. “The custodian who conducted the devotional said something that will forever change the way I look at temple cleaning assignments. After welcoming us, he proceeded to explain that we were not there to clean things that didn’t need cleaning but to keep the Lord’s house from ever becoming dirty. As stewards of one of the most sacred places on earth, we had a responsibility to keep it spotless.”
His message penetrated my heart, and I proceeded to my assigned area with a new enthusiasm to protect the Lord’s house. I spent time with a soft-bristled paintbrush, dusting the tiny grooves in door frames, baseboards, and the legs of tables and chairs. Had I been given this assignment on an earlier visit, I might have thought it ridiculous and carelessly brushed over the areas in an effort to appear busy. But this time, I made sure the bristles reached into the tiniest of crevices.
 “I first realized that I never paid attention to such minute details in my own home but cleaned those areas that others would see first, neglecting those known only to members of my family and me.  I next realized that there were times when I had lived the gospel in a similar fashion—living those principles and fulfilling those assignments that were most obvious to those around me while ignoring things that seemed known only to my immediate family or me. I attended church, held callings, fulfilled assignments, went visiting teaching—all in full view of members of our ward—but neglected to attend the temple regularly, have personal and family scripture study and prayer, and hold family home evening. I taught lessons and spoke in church but sometimes lacked true charity in my heart when it came to interactions with others.  That night in the temple, I studied the paintbrush in my hand and asked myself, “What are the little crevices in my life that need more attention?” I resolved that rather than plan to repeatedly clean the areas of my life that needed attention, I would try harder never to let them become dirty.

I remember my temple-cleaning lesson each time we are reminded to keep ourselves “unspotted from the world” (James 1:27).

May we take a fresh look at our apartments.  May we clean and live in a way that shows our appreciation to the Lord for providing a place to lay down and rest our heads after a day of laboring in the “vineyard”, a place to be nourished, a place to seek the Spirit and to prepare for our missionary service.

In addition to being clean, please consider your stewardship over the resources of the earth and the community in which we live.  In times of extreme weather, hot or cold, how efficiently we use resources like electricity and gas, will make a difference to others.  At this time, remember to turn your air conditioning off when you are not in the apartment.  If you close the drapes and windows, it will reduce the amount of radiant heat that enters your apartment.  An important way to keep your air conditioning functioning efficiently is to periodically clean the filters in the air conditioning unit and the ceiling fans.

Please consider not only cleaning the things that obviously need cleaning but to strive to keep the Lord’s house (your apartment) from ever becoming dirty. As stewards of a sacred place on earth, we had a responsibility to keep it spotless.”  I promise you greater peace and the presence of the Spirit of the Lord as you wisely fulfill your stewardship.  

Elder Barney

I Feel Like I've Been Baptized Again

Steven Bardzinski,  August  28, 2012

After only being in Inuyama for a short time, I was surprised when I received a transfer call to serve in Numazu.  I’d heard nothing about the area, and hadn’t even heard of my new companion, Elder Hilyard.  I asked Heavenly Father many times in prayer why I had been called to this area that had practically no investigators or any relationship with the members.  I didn’t really get an answer on my knees, but it came on my first Sunday.  After Sacrament Meeting ended, I felt prompted to talk to a lady standing by herself looking quite sad.

As I began to speak to her, she began to cry as she said that people didn’t really take the time to talk to her.  Mayumi Kouchi had been less active for about 10 years and felt that God didn’t love her.  She expressed her desire to learn about her Savior Jesus Christ through the missionary lessons.  We began to teach Sister Kouchi, and watch a mighty change come upon her.

As she had already been baptized, inviting her to baptism wasn’t an option, so we decided to set a date for her to prepare to take the sacrament.  She accepted a date, and together we helped her repent and prepare to be worthy to take the sacrament.  I have never seen anyone prepare as much as Kouchi Shimai to take the sacrament.

The day came and she was ready.   As she took the bread and water, she wept as she said, “I feel like I’ve been baptized again!  I feel like I’ve been washed clean.  Thank you.”

I came to realize why I had been sent to Numazu.  I know what it means in D&C 18 when it says, “…how great will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me.”

Elder Hilyard, Elder Bardzinski, and Sister Kouchi
After Sister Kouchi’s reactivation, she has helped her friend return to church, her nephew became an investigator and has a baptismal date, and she has also recently referred another friend to the missionaries.
Numazu is now a thriving area with many investigators and a great relationship with the members-- dramatically different to the Numazu I transferred to.  All thanks to the love and mercy of Jesus Christ and our loving Father in Heaven.

This gospel is true and will bless the lives of ANYONE who embraces it.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

More Great Finishers, August 2012

We know they have to leave, but that doesn't mean we have to like it.  Each time we have these missionaries, whom we have grown to love, leave us, it is a sad day.  But we know they can't stay forever.  After all, how else are they going to find a spouse?  So here are our warmest goodbyes to these great missionaries.

Seated from left:  Elder Ellsworth (AP), Elder Pedersen, Elder Flint, Elder Bardzinski
Elder Ito (AP), Elder Numakura, Elder Ikeda, President and Sister Baird

Can you see the high regard these two elders have for each other?
Elder Koesashi (left) says Elder Numakura is one of
his favorite missionaries.  He is "cool."  And
he is a great eating machine.  

I like this picture, taken at the same spot they first met their new trainers.  
How different do Elders Flint and Bardzinski look two years later?
See post for Oct. 2010.

Elder Bardzinski is bubbly and easy to get along with and has a sincere, strong testimony of the Gospel.
One of his former companions said he was diligent, very obedient, and managed to get him up in the morning to exercise, even thought this elder didn't like to exercise in the morning. Another missionary said he could have fun while working hard.

Elder Flint hopes to study civil engineering and become an architect.  He wants to use his degree to help out less priviliged countries and design his own home.  He is a quiet observer and has a strong testimony of prayer.  He is a very determined missionary; once he decides he will do something, he will do it.

One missionary said the following about Elder Pedersen:  "He is very thoughtful about other people.  He tries very hard to make everyone happy through the Gospel.  He is willing to sacrifice his time and his talents for people who need them.  He is always happy and positive."  Elder Pedersen wants an occupation in the field of science to help make the world and church better.  He is humble and easy going and likes to help others.  He has a resolute testimony and lots of faith.

Elder Ikeda loves basketball.  Anyone who knows him thinks basketball.  But a former companion
said that during his mission, he was the best example of how to be effective and open his mouth.
He worked very hard.  He also felt that a big part of his mission was to help less-active people,
and he had a big impact in that way.
You can take a missionary away from basketball,
but you can't take basketball out of a missionary.
Elder Numakura had a special talent for organizing paperwork.  He was a pro with the area book for the mission.  He also did a wonderful job of enduring to the end, meaning that he kept working hard right to the end of his mission, and got two new investigators in the last week.  He also worked very hard to learn English, which is exactly what Japanese missionaries are asked to do.

Final feast.  Last chance to enjoy Sister Baird's famous lasagna.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

He Started to Keep All the Commandments

Christopher Pedersen, August 28, 2012

In Toyota there was an investigator named RV.  He was working with the missionaries for a while when he decided he wanted to know if this church was true. 

He started to keep all the commandments.  While he was reading the Book of Mormon, he found Alma 7:13. "Now the Spirit knoweth all things; nevertheless the Son of God suffereth according to the flesh that he might take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance; and now behold, this is the testimony which is in me."  The next day he met with us and said that scripture had a lot of influence on him.  He said when he read it, he felt close to the Savior and wanted to follow after His command. 

When RV said this, I felt impressed to just keep reading.  We then opened to verse 14. Now I say unto you that ye must repent, and be born again; for the Spirit saith if ye are not born again ye cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven; therefore come and be baptized unto repentance, that ye maybe washed from your sins, that ye may have faith on the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sins of the world, who is mighty to save and to cleanse from all unrighteousness."

When RV read that verse, there were almost tears in his eyes.  I took the opportunity to testify that this was his answer from God.  “The Lord is speaking to you directly.”  

A few weeks later, on April 1st, RV was baptized.
From left:  Elder Nakanishi, Elder Pedersen, RV, Sister Baird,
Megumi (RV's mother), President Baird, Yamamoto, and Etsuko.